Bill O’Dea made his run for mayor official this morning in front of a rapturous crowd of family, friends and colleagues.
During an hour-long, slickly produced event at the The View in Lincoln Park, O’Dea’s colleagues along with labor officials and community activists paraded to the lectern to attest to his good character and qualifications.
Pat Kelleher of the Hudson County Building Trades called O’Dea “a friend of organized labor…he’s a man of his word.” Helen Castillo Vargas described first meeting O’Dea as he picked up garbage on Mallory Avenue. “Like whose public official will be doing that” she asked. “If I need something, Bill is my go-to because I know Bill will get it done.” One speaker called O’Dea “a true son of Jersey City who never left Jersey City” — a dig at former governor James McGreevey, who announced his candidacy last week and who moved away from Jersey City as a child.
If the remarks of warm-up speakers were short on detail and long on platitudes, O’Dea was detailed and policy-focused. Stepping up the the podium to chants of “Billy, Billy, Billy,” O’Dea launched into a 21-minute speech setting out a vision of activist government that would attempt to alleviate economic stress on working residents.
He would, he promised, work “to make Jersey City affordable…building quality affordable and workforce housing.” Developers, he promised “will be held accountable for community benefits” and neighborhood residents would “have a say in determining” what the community benefits are. “We need smart community-based development.” He would strongly support rent control, he said.
His policies would focus on creating “prosperity for all” and he would, he said, work to provide living-wage jobs and career opportunities. “Apprenticeship opportunities” would be expanded, he said.
Without mentioning government ethics directly, he nonetheless promised cleaner government. “I’m not here to game the system, I’m here as I’ve always been to fight for you.” He had not, he said, ever taken a raise as a public official, choosing, instead, to set an example. He said he opposes “political patronage jobs.”
He would break up the Department of Public Safety, he said, and make police and fire separate agencies, as they were prior to the Fulop administration. Fixing the 911 call center and the Resident Response Center would be a priority. “Residents deserve quick effective responses for call to service.” He pledged to improve mental health services for vulnerable populations and would pair mental health services with with the police.
On city finances, O’Dea said, “Multi-year budgeting practices need to be implemented…quick fixes and one time revenues have to be phased out.”
He would, he said, provide more opportunities for youth, proposing a public/private partnership to create summer camps and youth centers in each ward. “Youth services and recreation programs have to be expanded city wide.”
Calling recent cuts to state aid for education “Draconian,” O’Dea said he’d work to get “our fair share” back. The goal, he said, would be to “give our children an education that’s second to none.”
Throughout the ceremony, speakers repeated the slogan “Our City. Our Choice,” which was also emblazoned on O’Dea’s campaign signs and tee-shirts. The impetus for the slogan appears to be Jim McGreevey’s endorsement by Union City Mayor Brian Stack, and the sense of resentment of outside meddling may work to O’Dea’s advantage.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon and City Council President Joyce Watterman are also said to be considering entering the race.